National Presiding Bishop Visits South Dakota for Storm Atlas Recovery

L-R: Betty Oldenkamp, Bishop Eaton, Chauncey Jorgensen,  Rev. Stadie listen as Jorgensen describes what he found when he came up on the herd.

L-R: Lisa Adler, Bishop Eaton, Chauncey Jorgensen, Rev. Stadie listen as Jorgensen describes what he found when he came up on the herd.

October 4th, 5th and 6th of 2013 are days that will never be forgotten in western South Dakota.

“Storm Atlas” hit with unexpected fury. What began as rain turned to sleet, and then snow, and then 60-70 mile-per-hour winds. Livestock tried to find shelter from the storm, but too often were unsuccessful.

When disaster strikes, LSS is there to help. LSS Development and Foundation staff Lisa Adler and Sara Hornick teamed up with Lutheran Disaster Relief US to develop, coordinate and implement a broad based relief plan working with a variety of state government and social service agencies.

Bishop Zellmer, Rev. Stadie and Lisa Adler look over the ranch.

Bishop Zellmer, Rev. Stadie and Lisa Adler look over the ranch.

While the storm may be long over, the recovery effort is still in progress. A few weeks ago, ELCA National Presiding Bishop Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, South Dakota Bishop Rev. David Zellmer, Lutheran Disaster Relief US Director Rev. Michael Stadie, LSS President/CEO Betty Oldenkamp and Adler traveled to Pierre and Perkins County to review the storm recovery efforts. While in Pierre, they met with the Rancher Relief Fund to continue to discuss how to provide over $4.3 million in relief to the 611 ranchers who have requested it.

The real highlight of the trip was a visit to Gary and Janet Jorgensen’s ranch in Perkins County. The Jorgensen’s have a unique herd that cannot be easily restored. The Jorgensen family began the herd in 1908 and succeeding family generations have built upon it. Nearly 30 percent of their herd was lost in “Storm Atlas.”

Dead cattle lay along the rim.

Dead cattle lay along the rim.

The group received a real taste of South Dakota hospitality as they stayed the evening with the Jorgensens at the ranch. While there, Bishop Eaton, raised in a large urban area, learned about cattle production including calf pulling and pullers, warming boxes, ear tags and other items to keep cattle healthy. Bishop Eaton was particularly interested to see a calf puller and to learn how a rancher knew when to take this step in the calving process. Later, the group walked the draws and creek where many of the Jorgensen’s cattle perished.

Through this visit, Bishop Eaton received a first hand look at the grit, determination, perseverance and way of life of South Dakotans. Just as importantly, she saw how LSS and Lutheran Disaster Relief work long and hard after the storm has ended to preserve and restore that way of life.

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